A Chinese Uncle

Age: 71
Gender: Male

Origin: China
Host: Thailand

The elderly may have a wealth of memories to share, yet *Guo’s untold story was filled with much rejection, pain and heartbreak. Fleeing political conflict from China, Guo eventually lost all contact from his estranged wife and family, and spent the remaining years of his life battling illness, undocumented, and seeking asylum to no avail. Books, ID’s, keys, a phone and spare change were the only belongings Guo left behind, with only the caseworkers who fondly remember him as ‘uncle’ bidding him one last goodbye.

*Guo is only a Pseudonym 

There was nothing much left by Guo, a Chinese asylum seeker, who had spent almost 4 years seeking protection in Thailand as a refugee, after passing away in April 2021. He was a well-educated elderly man with a background in business and economics from China. Though he was described as an outspoken and strict person, he was adored and respected by JRS caseworkers. His displacement journey is not fully known but it was full of rejection and pain.

He fled political conflict to Thailand with hope to restart a new life in a just and democratic country, not knowing how limited refugee rights are there. He said he was a member of an influential family in China. Given the educational background for people in his generation, he was considered a notable citizen. The reason why he was imprisoned or his properties were confiscated in China was unknown. Guo and his wife only escaped to save their lives. Unfortunately, his wife decided to return to China after a while due to a family issue. She was then forced to divorce him and had disappeared from his life. He stopped contacting anyone in China since then, including his own relatives as his decision to flee was not accepted by his family.

As an undocumented old man living alone, he faced many difficulties accessing basic services. Language was the main challenge. He could not request an emergency service from hospitals without an interpreter. He was not treated well and equally by health workers in Thailand. A humanitarian worker said that “It is a shame that an international clinic of a very famous hospital near Victory Monument refused to treat him just because he could not speak English. They treated him like he is not a person. Sometimes it’s an emergency but they don’t care. He is also a human being and with severe health conditions. This made him worried to go to the hospital when he needed to go. I think this is unacceptable. It’s inhumane and everyone knows that hospital.”

It is a shame that an international clinic of a very famous hospital near Victory Monument refused to treat him just because he could not speak English. They treated him like he is not a person. Sometimes it’s an emergency but they don’t care. He is also a human being and with severe health conditions. This made him worried to go to the hospital when he needed to go. I think this is unacceptable. It’s inhumane and everyone knows that hospital.
Caseworkers, JRS Thailand
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Refugees and asylum seekers have limited options in accessing services from health providers. Guo was fighting and struggling hard in Thailand until December 2020 when his refugee status application came to a dead end. He realized there was no way ahead and he would not receive financial assistance for hospital bills anymore. Though JRS continued helping him, he planned to go back to China. However, no one responded to multiple attempts to contact his family, relatives, and friends in China. While waiting for a response, he suffered a severe asthma attack in the middle of a night, and he could not make it. No one in China has answered until now. They do not know Guo already passed away in Thailand, alone.

“He did not tell us why he keeps holding an old Chinese newspaper all the time though he was losing eyesight. But I think it must be very important for him. If you asked me to describe how he was like, I would say he is a very smart person, also stubborn and detail-oriented. He knows what he wants.” said a JRS staff who accompanied him all throughout his ordeal.

After he died, JRS was contacted by his landlord to collect his small possessions following his request. “Guo said he will give everything he has to JRS, and he wants his ashes to be buried in the JRS compound.”

Looking through what he left behind, JRS found what Guo considered his essential possessions: his identity, Chinese books, mobile phone, keys, some money, and the contact of an interpreter given by JRS. But these showed how difficult and bare his existence was. “Though he is a bit different, I just want to let him know that we respected and loved him. He should know he also received love in this world,” said a JRS staff.

It is the end of his painful and difficult journey. He is now resting in peace in a place he called eternal home. Goodbye, our Chinese uncle.

It is the end of his painful and difficult journey. He is now resting in peace in a place he called eternal home. Goodbye, our Chinese uncle.
Caseworkers, JRS Thailand
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